She is sleeping; I am thinking about Hospice.

She has been sleeping for 24hours other than about an hour doing food and pills this morning (about 11:30am) and one trip to the bathroom this afternoon.  I wake her enough to give her the 1/2 Sinamet every two hours.  That pill is for keeping mobility.  While she hardly needs mobility when sleeping, without the Sinamet, she stiffens up and becomes very uncomfortable.

I have now found something that I can cook for Mary Ann that she seems to like very much.  I do a very skillful job, and the result, I must admit is very tasty.  I get a slice of bread out of the package, toast it to perfection, butter the toast from corner to corner, slather on some super-chunk chunky peanut butter and top it with some of Maureen’s homemade preserves.  I cut it into quarters and hope I don’t get my fingers bitten as I help her eat it.

She had juice, a container of yogurt, the PBJ on toast, and that is all in the last 24 hours.   So far I have not been able to get her to get up even for a commode trip, let alone some supper.  It may happen yet.  It is 8pm at the moment.

It just popped into my mind that this is sort of like riding some sort of tilt-a-whirl.  I almost go crazy with the hallucinations, praying that she will take a nap, and my heart sinks when she sleeps so long, fearing that she is not going to get up.  We have been on this ride long enough, that I don’t lose my bearings as we swing one way and then the other, but I have to tell you it sure isn’t as much fun as riding the tilt-a-whirl (not that I can remember riding one — I probably would have thrown up — I was mostly a roller coaster guy in my younger years).

While she has been sleeping, I have been thinking, or maybe it would be more accurate to say, feeling.  So many times in my ministry I have tried to help people deal with hearing the word “Cancer” in a diagnosis.  Minds immediately fly to the worst case scenerio for how things will go.  While that may be the way things go, the word “Cancer” spoken as a diagnosis does not determine an outcome.  It has implications for outcomes, but ask any Cancer survivor about some of those possible outcomes.

Well, the word “Hospice” carries with it for me the weght of many visits to people in our local Hospice House, whose stay most often varies from hours to days, and then they are gone.  I have ministered to people for forty years with most of those entering a hospice program reaching the end of their lives not long thereafter.  While I realize intellectually that there are folks who have been enrolled in hospice programs for years, my gut has no clue about that.

In addition to the gut reaction, there is the harsh reality that Mary Ann has been declining at what seems like breakneck speed.  She has bounced back from so many medical problems that would have taken someone with less strength of will, part of me is just waiting for her to rally, as usual.

This time she seems to be moving past the point of being able to return to the level of functionality we enjoyed just a few months ago.  I will happily eat those words if a week from now she is her old feisty self.

Today, as I had time to immerse myself in the implications of “Hospice,” I did what I usually do, what I think should be done, I felt the feelings that come with the potential loss.  I grieved.  I have been down this road before, more than once.  The memory that surfaced today was the memory of sitting in an empty emergency room about four years ago at a hospital in Tucson, Arizona, while Mary Ann was somewhere else in the hospital receiving a test of some sort.

We had flown to Tucson to attend a gathering of Lutheran Seniors at a large retreat center there.  On the plane trip down, Mary Ann began having some congestion, I am convinced due to the poor air quality in the airplane.  As the days went by, it got worse until we decided to call an ambulance.  I remember looking back from the passenger seat of the ambulance to see the one EMT in the back trying to deal with Mary Ann’s arms and legs flying this way and that, because of the dyskinetic movements produced by the Parkinson’s meds.

As I sat in that empty emergency room, a thousand miles away from anyone I knew, any family, the doctor and nurse had just left.  The doctor told me that the X-ray had shown her lungs to be completely white.  She would most likely be on a ventilator by morning.  I asked if it was time to phone the kids to get them to come, implying, of course that otherwise they would not see her before she died.  The answer was, of course, yes.  I called them.  They each got on a plane and came, Lisa bringing a little one with her.

I had what seems like an eternity in that room, sitting by myself.  The feelings were powerful, the moment surreal.  Today, I remembered what it felt like to think about losing Mary Ann.  I have written at least one post almost a year ago that included a desrciption of some time thinking about her eventual departure.  While a few hours from now Mary Ann may be irritating the Hell out of me getting up and down and up and down (which at this point I think I would celebrate), it seems very possible that we are approaching the beginning of the end.

I need to tell you that my heart is aching as I am writing those words.  I don’t mean to sound dramatic.  I will be fine.  I am just describing feelings as I am experiencing them.  This is what it means to be alive!  Mary Ann is still alive and may be for a long time.  If she is not, if I am not, it is still all right.  We are secure beyond our time here.

She just got up to use the bathroom and get a drink of water.  She was not hungry and is in bed again.  It is about 9pm.  She was lucid and did not seem to be hallucinating.

After a while, I put on the CD by Lisa Kelly, one of the Celtic Woman group.  As I listened to it again, most of what is on it is relevant for someone thinking about a life’s partner, as well as the need to let go and the challenges associated with doing so.  In the song “May It Be” there is a refrain, “a promise lives within you now.”  As I listened to music that resonated with my feelings, I thought about how trite and shallow and sentimental music can be when it seeks to manipulate the feelings of listeners.  I realized that what makes such music meaningful is only real life, lived with all the struggles and mundane tasks adding depth to what could be shallow and meaningless.

Let me say it this way.  With all my self-doubt and lack of confidence, painful flaws and weaknesses, guilt feelings about all that I have not done that I should, especially in showing Mary Ann and my Children how much I love them — with all of that said, I am keeping my promise to Mary Ann.  That promise lives within me now and it is not just a feeling. It is being lived hour by hour and day by day.  I hope at some level Mary Ann feels secure in that promise.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Sitting in the transfer chair in front of the television, she just fainted.  I took her blood pressure as soon as I could get the cuff on her arm, the stethoscope in my ears and the cuff inflated.  It measured 80/50.  About five minutes later I took it again.  Then it measured 90/60.  Remember the three weeks it measured 220/120 when I took it first thing in the morning?  Check a few posts back.

I started her on a half of a Midodrine pill three times a day.  I got in two doses today.  And so the roller coaster goes up and it goes down.  Today is the best day in the last four (if I am counting correctly) in terms of Mary Ann being awake and lucid.

She got up in time to eat and take pills before Bath Aide Zandra came this morning. While I needed to help her with all that she ate, she had a good quantity of food. She did faint more than once for Zandra as she was trying to give her a shower.

She sat up in the chair for the rest of the morning.  It was the longest she has sat up in the chair in many days.  There has been no evidence of hallucinations today.  She ate reasonably well at lunch, having a big bowl of ice cream for dessert.

After lunch she sat for a while and began slumping over some.  Soon she got up to go in and take a nap.  She slept until supper.  She ate reasonably well (I actually cooked) and had a lemon bar for dessert.

Since Volunteer Twila came for the evening, I was able to get out for a while and bring back for her a couple of scoops of Baskin & Robbins.  She ate that treat right away.  It was not long after that that Twila left and she went to bed.  She has been down for a couple of hours, either watching television or sleeping.

I have finished the fax to the KU Med Center Parkinson’s Clinic Neurologist and intend to send it tomorrow.  As I finished it, I could describe what has become a pattern for the last three weeks: two days and two or three nights with streaming hallucinations any time she is awake;  then two days and two or three nights of sleeping all the time (day and night); then a couple of days and nights in which she sleeps at night and is awake and lucid about half of each of the days.  Then the cycle begins again.  This is the closest we have come to a pattern in a long time.  It is not a wonderful and pleasing pattern, but at least it provides something coherent to communicate to the doctor other than constantly unpredictable changes.

Last night instead of getting to bed early as I had planned, I checked out some of the Taizé music on YouTube.  I followed it with some Russian Orhodox Liturgical Chant, also on YouTube.  That hour or so was very nurturing spiritually.  Since the snow and Mary Ann’s sleeping through the entire day precluded getting to corporate worship, I needed the sabbath rest more than the physical rest.  Tonight for part of the time I found a spot with enough light at PT’s coffee shop and read the book on science and religion called The Mind of God by Paul Davies.  I mentioned it in a prior post on this blog.  The author does not believe in God as do I, but his approach certainly makes it clear that he does not rule out that possibility.  He seems to be arguing for belief, based on the science, even though he does not claim belief.  My faith is nurtured rather than challenged by what I read.

As I have repeated far too many times, this is a particularly difficult time in our journey.  The Spiritual nurture is a key element in sustaining me during this time.  I am grateful for Mary Ann’s strong faith as we journey together.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

This will take a long time to write.  I am heading to the bedroom every five or ten minutes to help talk Mary Ann back into bed after getting up to respond to another dream/hallucination.  It is taking a long time, longer each trip into the bedroom,  to talk her down from whatever it is.

Mary Ann insisted on getting her pj’s on and going to bed at 4:45pm today.  She got up fairly early this morning.  Last night included a few more times up.  At least it wasn’t until after 6am that she starting trying to get up for the day.  Right away this morning she had that very intense lucidity that is laced with a little hyperactivity.  That particular version of lucidity lies just at the entrance to the place where the hallucinations run wild.

I managed to convince her to stay at the bed long enough for me to get myself showered and dressed.  Then we moved quickly through getting her dressed, hair washed, pills taken and breakfast eaten.  Things slowed a bit as she enjoyed a leftover orange/pecan sticky bun.  Almost the first thing Mary Ann remembered this morning was that there should be one left if I didn’t eat it.

Edie came to stay with Mary Ann while I headed up to the lake for some time away.  By the time Edie arrived, Mary Ann had finished eating and had her head down on the table.  At one point while in that position Mary Ann said something about the people stealing money.  I explained to Edie her recurring fear that “the people” are taking money from the loose change jar.  It is still out of sight next to my bed after the time she asked me to hide it so they couldn’t get it.

When I got back from the lake, Mary Ann was resting (in and out of sleep) on her bed.  Edie always brings and then cooks a lavish meal when she comes to stay with Mary Ann one Sunday morning a month.  The food was hot and ready to eat, but Mary Ann was not ready to get up and eat it.  I went ahead and ate.  Shortly after I was done, Mary Ann was ready to get up and eat.

After eating, she soon ended up in front of the television with her head down.  She was awake some of the time.  Later, I asked her if she wanted supper before or after the Evening Service at church.  She did not respond to that, but it was then that she decided to get ready and go to bed.

Last night was not wonderful for sleep.  Tonight has been filled with activity so far.  It is extremely likely that the hallunations today will be compounded tomorrow due to the lack of sleep.  That means that I also will be wanting for sleep.  Maybe this is the week I will end up with a paid person here so that I can get a good night’s sleep.

Given all the ups and down and twists and turns in the last weeds of this ride we are on I was grateful to have a couple of hours away from the house during the daytime hours. The need for Sabbath time is not exclusively for people of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Whatever word is used for it, the fact that we have come into existence  with the need for sleep suggests that there is need for rest whether rooted in God’s creation of us with that need and calling it sabbath, or a need that emerged over aeons of evolutionary change (or both).

I think everyone needs some sort of intentional time for re-grouping, renewal time, time to think and process events, time alone, time to stop the stream of thoughts filling our head, and allow time to be quiet, time for intuitive connections to be made, the ones outside our power to force solutions to problems.  I certainly need such times.

Again today, the timing of Mary Ann’s needs frustrated plans to attend Corporate worship (worship with a community of people).  This morning at the lake I had some sabbath time, not corporate, but nonetheless sabbath time.

Of course the natural environment there speaks loudly to me of a connection with a Creator who has chosen to love me unconditionally.  The Eagles were fewer in number but still entertaining.  One caught and ate his lunch within binocular distance of me.  There were ducks and geese and gulls.  Blizzard conditions gathered power for a time as I sat in my warm van.

I read from Weavings, the Spritiuality Journal to which I subcribe.  I pulled out the Ingantian Retreat book that I ordered and spent time reading the next week’s suggested activities.  As usual, there were suggested Scripture references.  I read some of them and found them very meaningful.

I put on a CD of Medieval Music.  Anyone who studies music history discovers quickly that most early music is church music, or has its roots there.  The CD of Medieval Music is included words and themes that supported my sabbath tradition.

Since Mary Ann went to bed so early, I had time to put on the last Celtic Woman DVD from PBS.  Because of my experience a couple of weeks ago with a CD by one of the members of that franchise, I have realized how many of the songs sung by that group have lyrics and themes that emerge from my Spiritual tradition.  It makes sense, since the religious tradition of the Irish, at least after the early Celtic Paganism practiced by the Druids, is a just a different branch of the same tradition.

Putting the bits and pieces together provided some sabbath time today that has helped.  While corporate worship is an important part of any healthy sabbath experience, the bits and pieces helped keep my feet securely planted in the unconditional love that provides the support I need to deal with all that daily living brings.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Three nights are better than none.  Mary Ann was up once every two hours last night.  That is good measured by past standards, but disappointing in light of the hopes raised by three nights of sleep with only a couple of interruptions each night.  She was up and ready to go at 6:30am this morning.

There were a couple of Volunteers this morning.  Two of the three other members of the Wednesday morning group could not make it this morning, so Paul (the other of the three) and I met for coffee at PT’s (of course).  Then I spent some time sitting in the car listening to a remarkable vocal ensemble called Anuna (performed in Riverdance).  I checked out a particularly meaningful Bible Passage.  Then I walked a little over a mile at Cedarcrest.

When I returned, Mary Ann was napping.  After a while, she ate the leftover Seafood Tortellini from yesterday’s lunch.  While she was eating she said “where did you get that” while looking over my shoulder.  I asked her who she was talking with.  She said it was her Mother (who has been dead for many years) who was holding a doorknob in her hand.

There were some intestinal blowouts that suggested the onset of serious diarrhea, but they subsided after a while.  I will spare the details of those challenges.

As the day wore on, there were a two or three more quick comments that seemed to reflect the presence of a hallucinations.  She spent much of the afternoon with her head on the table.  I gave her the stuffed frog, on which she laid her head.

During that time a friend came over to talk with me about a project on helping people make meaningful plans for their own or a family member’s funeral.  Having done countless funerals over the years, I have seen what helps and what does not help when going through such a time.  It felt good to be able to talk about some of those experiences and discoveries that came from them.  It is a nice feeling still to have something to offer.

Mary Ann spent the rest of the afternoon with her head down in her lap, on the stuffed frog.  She manage to eat a little, very little for supper.  With the new Baskin and Robbins now open, I put the Lifeline button next to her head as she lay it on the table after supper, and headed off to get ice cream for her so that she would have enough in her stomach to last the night.  Yes, of course I wanted ice cream for myself — did you even need to ask?

I decided to write a request on Facebook that anyone who can do so, get ice cream at that B&R and tell them Pastor Pete sent them.  When I stop back in a few days, I will be curious to find out if anyone actually did so.  It can’t hurt to have the owners of the B&R as friends!

I have to say that it has been very disappointing to see an end come to the good days and nights so soon.  I was hoping we would get weeks or months rather than just days out of the new dosage of Seroquel.  I was not at the monitor for a bit a few moments ago and heard the telltale thump.  She was on the floor next to the bed but not hurt.  When I helped her to the commode, she suddenly got an alarmed look on her face and told me not to step on the baby.

Fifteen minutes later she was up again on the side of the bed.  I went in to see what she needed.  She said, “What are you doing here at school.”  When I asked what school we were at, she said it was Granddaughter Ashlyn’s school.  Then she suggested that she get dressed to help her get oriented.  I explained to her that it was 11:10pm, and everyone else is in bed, so it would not help her get oriented to get dressed.  She decided to use the commode, even though she used it fifteen minutes earlier.  She is lying down in bed again, but I don’t expect it to be for long.

She made it almost an hour.  This time she was on a ride in the car looking for a house, looking at a parsonage.  There were some banshee eyes (not scary to her) that seemed to be like the 3-D glasses from the yesterday’s viewing of Avatar.  Didn’t I have to pick up the kids.  The raccoon was there (first she called it a porcupine).  She said that this looked like her bedroom.  I showed her the quilt on the wall again to assure her that it actually was our bedroom.  At least so far tonight, she has not been as agitated as she was last week.  Unfortunately, it is likely that if she gets less sleep than she needs in the next few nights, that intensity will return.

More than one of us in the online group have compared the rapid twists and turns and reversals of fortune that come with this sort of dementia to torture.  Each of us has our sources of strength and wisdom.  In my world view, the Biblical literature is  the place to which I go to find the framework of reality as I understand it, to locate meaning in the middle of things beyond understanding.  This morning as I sat in the car at the lot at Cedarcrest, my mind went to a passage written by a fellow named Paul, who had by that time gone through some terrible struggles.  It reads this way:

“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.” [2 Corinthians 4:7-12 NRSV]

Quoting Scriptures is not intended to suggest that these posts are only for those who share my theology or any theology for that matter.  I am simply reflecting the sources to which I go for strength.  When hopes and expectations get crushed, it is easy to feel hopeless.  It helps to hear from others who have been there, like Paul, a way to perceive reality that allows survival. It is the reality to which Paul refers that provides the ground on which this roller coaster we are riding rests.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

This morning I thought the increased dosage of Seroquel had gone too far and put her into a sort of drug-induced stupor.  She was sleeping so deeply.  She would not arouse.  She had hardly moved a muscle all night other than two commode trips.  Yes, I wanted to get some sleep, but not at that cost.  I would rather endure the rampant hallucinations than lose her completely into some distant world out of touch with reality, with who she is.

At that point I decided that unless things changed dramatically, I would call the doctor and do everything in my power to find a way to reset her medication regimen completely — take it all away (medicine vacation) and re-introduce only what is absolutely necessary monitoring side effects with each addition.  Some of the meds can produce hallucinations.  I would do it at home or in the hospital or wherever necessary.  I refuse to concede anything to this disease other than what absolutely must be accepted.

As I did morning preparations for the time that Sunday morning Volunteer Edie would arrive, I tried to awaken her a couple of times so that she could be dressed and have eaten and taken her pills.  Her hair needed washing after the last few difficult days.  She was just sleeping too soundly to get up.

I headed up to the lake after Edie settled in with instructions for giving meds.  I assumed that when I returned, Mary Ann would most likely still be in that same deep sleep.

As I drove the half hour to my spot by the dam, I put on a CD done by Lisa Kelly from the Celtic Woman group.  Her voice has a very engaging timbre.  Most of the songs were ones that I had heard and enjoyed before.  When I settled in by the lake, no eagles in sight at that time, the music and my image of Mary Ann in that deep sleep, began to burrow in.  For some reason, even though well-rested from last night’s virtually uninterrupted sleep, it all began to well up.  It surprised me at that moment to hear a song I would not have expected on a commercial CD for the general public.  The title is “The Deer’s Cry” from a movie called The Pilgrim.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise to-day
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s eyes to look before me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
From all who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.

Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ to shield me,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me.

I arise to-day

I am not embarrassed by this, but it has happened only four or five times since I was a child.  I have teared up, I have gotten choked up, but this morning I cried out loud. I just couldn’t stop. I was sitting in the car in the parking lot hoping no one would drive in and stop, as people often do since it is such a beautiful spot.

I don’t want to analyze all the whats and wherefores of what happened.  It was a deeply personal moment.  Writing it here risks trivailizing it.  I hesitated talk about it here, but it was too important to me for me to write about today honestly and not reveal it.  It just happened. I was overwhelmed with the vision of Mary Ann being lost in her own body.  She deserves more!

I refuse to be complicit in any way in treatments that make it easier to care for her at the cost of her being fully present to whatever degree possilble.  If I need to have paid help her overnight to be able to endure challenging behavior, so be it.  I wlll not lose her until the disease process itself takes her from me.

Yes, I am angry at this damn disease!  I don’t blame God.  The words of St. Patrick’s Breastplate in that song are what broke open the tears.  I sometimes forget how much I need what I sought to tell others all those years.  I am angry at myself for beginning too soon to accept losing her .

The recent decline and move into dementia has happened too fast.  Yes, sometimes declines happen so slowly that they are not noticed until they cross a certain threshold.  That can create the illusion that the change has happened quickly.  I remember a Neurologist in a Webinar saying that Parkinson’s progresses slowly.  If a change happens fast, it is not the Parkinson’s.  Something else must be the cause.  Lewy Body Dementia can change back and forth between getting better and getting worse quickly,  This decline and the increase in hallucinations has moved at a pace that suggests the need to look carefully, especially at the medications to see what other explanations there might be for the rapidity of the change.

I will accept only what must be accepted and will concede nothing more!  I am tired of just taking what comes and accepting as inevitable every decline.  While we choose to live in a certain denial day by day, I have no illusions about the general course of this disease. If anything, I know too much about what lies ahead, having read emails from other Caregivers struggling with this same disease in their families.

When I returned from the lake, I walked in the door to see Mary Ann sitting in her chair with Edie sitting next to her.  They were talking.  Mary Ann had gotten up shortly after I left.  She had taken her pills and eaten a good breakfast. She had drunk lots of liquids.  I had noted the color of Mary Ann’s urine in the commode this morning suggesting she might be getting dehydrated.  She had had a good BM (a big deal).  She had asked Edie about her new Grandchild.  She wanted to hear more about the baby.  She tracked the conversation, smiled and laughed at appropriate times.

After Edie left, we ate lunch — a sauerkraut and meatball soup that both Mary Ann and I love.  After much prodding, Mary Ann allowed me to help her eat. As a result she ate a good quantity of the soup and bread.  She had a big piece of carrot cake.  Not too much later she asked for and ate a bowl of ice cream.

She and I watched television for the rest of the afternoon.  She probably wondered what was going on since I did more hugging and telling her I love her than has happened in a while.  Neither of us is very demonstrative.  This morning messed up my controls for a while.

I got ready for the Evening Service, got things in the car, the garage door open.  I had been talking about going to church, as usual.  I put her shoes on.  She was tired and had been sitting there with her head hanging in her lap, napping.  When it was time to get in the car, she just was not willing to go out.

I gave her some supper.  Then she went right to bed.  She has now had her pills and is in bed, moving around a lot. I will be heading in soon.  Even though last night was a wonderfully sleep-filled night and today was a good day, tonight and tomorrow could be completely different.  We can take nothing for granted.  It will take some time to process all that happened today.  I am out of breath from the ride.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Shortly before 7:30am, Duane dropped off Eva at the house so that she could spend a couple of hours with Mary Ann.  Then came Shari and Edie for the Spiritual Formation Group that meets on the deck or in the downstairs family room.  Since the deck is covered with snow, it was, of course, a downstairs morning.  All is well whichever place as long as the coffee is made. 

A little later, Zandra came to give Mary Ann her shower and wash and dry her hair.  About an hour after they all had left, Kristie came to do the once a month cleaning of the house. 

Actually, we have an open door policy most of the time.  We have been very private people, especially Mary Ann.  All that changed in the last decade.  Since getting to the door is not always an option when someone rings the bell,  those who have come regularly to spend time with Mary Ann know that they may just need to walk in, if no one answers the door.  They walk in and announce themselves so that we will know that they have arrived.  We have become quite accustomed to the open door policy. 

While we did not get out today, the many visitors provided an antidote to any sense of isolation in our little cabin.  No cabin fever today.

Mary Ann did nap for a couple of hours during the day.  That allowed me to get some things done at the computer.  I did not spend time on the online retreat until she went to bed tonight. 

These two days looking at mental snapshots of events during the Teen/Young Adult years has again been thought provoking.  The Spiritual Formation Group discussion blended with the matter of receiving gifts from experiences, good or bad. 

I thought about last night’s post and the role singing played in my life.  While the high school and college years provided much affirmation as I participated in leadership roles, sometimes doing solo work as well as singing in ensembles, it was different at the Seminary.  Music  was still a dominant feature.  There was a three week choir tour that took us (Mary Ann and me) to England, Holland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium.  There were powerful, moving worship experiences singing in the chant choir and performing Bach’s St. John Passion. 

My ego was taken down a few notches in the Seminary Years.  Illusions about my ability were shattered as I stood next to a tenor who had a Master’s Degree in Vocal Music from Indiana University.  I realized that I had been measuring my ability against non-music majors.  Louie provided a needed perspective. 

My injured ego came with me as I continued to sing in the Chant Choir at the Seminary, and the Cantata Choir that included people from the city.    The gift that came from those years was a more realistic view of my abilities.  While the truth can be painful, it is better to make friends with the truth than spend much time with pretense.  Another gift was an appreciation of being a part of something greater than one person.  It became less about me and more about the music and its impact on those listening. 

That shift in focus seems to me to have helped in the transition from a high profile role as Senior Pastor of a large and vibrant congregation, to a lower profile role of being the full time Caregiver to someone who needs that care, someone to whom I am fully committed.  

Those years included the joy that December 18, 1965, when Mary Ann and I were married in our home congregation in Northern, Illinois.  We had both had finals at our respective schools in St. Louis the Friday before the Saturday we were married in Aurora, Illinois, outside of Chicago. 

Those years included the death of Mary Ann’s Dad, just two or three weeks after the wedding.  He had walked Mary Ann down the aisle. 

The Seminary years included a year at a church doing an Internship, called a Vicarage.  It was the 60’s, including the three assasinations.  I became disillusioned with the institutional church.  I refused to accept a Call to a parish on the day my classmates all received theirs a few weeks before graduation.  Those were dark days.  I didn’t know what to tell Mary Ann, since I didn’t know what to do.  Lisa was due to be born about a month after graduation. 

Lisa was born on the Fourth of July in 1969.  She brought light to those dark days.  I can remember holding her as we watched the moon landing, wondering what it would be in store for her as we moved into the space age.  I remember her Baptism in the Seminary Tower’s Baptismal font, with water from the Jordan that John Damm had added before doing the Baptism. 

Out of that time emerged an opportunity to teach at Concordia Lutheran High School in Ft. Wayne, Indiana (where I had spent two of my college years and my Internship).  It was a school of some 900 students.  There were some volatile times there, which will be for a future post. 

Those years were a roller coaster of experience in most every way.  They provided a lifetime worth of highs and lows.  And the ride was just beginning.   The gift from those years came in the form of the recognition that most anything could happen, and with the Lord’s help, we would survive.  Little did we know then, just how important that learning would be. 

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We got out of the house again today!  It just feels good to be out in the van running errands after so long stuck inside.  There was no nap again today.  I certainly hope in spite of that, there is more sleeping tonight than there was last night.  It was snack time at 3:15am. 

We ran errands and ended up at the grocery again today.   Mary Ann likes being at the store.  It seems to be one of the most engaging and entertaining activities for her.  It frustrates her that she is no longer the chief of food preparation and pantry stocking. 

Lunch was left over chinese from yesterday.   Supper was Chicken Tetrazini that was brought to us from church by the Parish Nurse for the freezer.  I cooked some fresh broccoli to add a veggie.  The Tetrazini tasted wonderful to both of us.  I am always fearful that anything from the freezer will not spark Mary Ann’s interest, but she loved this meal too. 

The Parish Nurse program at the church from which I retired has been one of the strongest ministries.  It is so strong because Margaret has made it so with God’s help.  She visits folks who are homebound regularly, taking vegetables from Glenn’s and her vegetable garden, flowers from their flower garden, leaves from their Maple tree in the fall, CD’s of the last Sunday’s church service, and from the church freezer she brings food that has been designated for use by the Parish Nurse.   The sense of community and support from church is vivid for those who receive her ministry and the ministry of those who assist her. 

Since there was no nap today, it helped that a Volunteer was scheduled for two and a half hours this evening.  I got out for a coffee refill.  I got to the liquor store to buy a half bottle of Asti Spumonti so that we can tie one on Thursday evening, New Year’s Eve.  That will happen when we eat cheese and crackers and toast the New Year at about 8:00pm.  It will be the New Year somewhere on the planet by then.  The worst part of it is that every year we do that, we have of the half bottle left to sit in the fridge for a while.   I guess we are not the rowdiest partiers around. 

The time the Volunteer was here gave me a chance to focus attention on the online Ignatian Retreat I have started.  This week’s activity is remembering the mental snapshots of those events from the past that impacted our formation.  This evening began the Teen and Young Adult reminiscences. 

Many of them related to the choirs I was in.  I perceived myself to be a non-entity in social terms at the large schools I attended.  I was utterly shocked when my name was suggested for President of the 104 member Sophomore Choir.  I got to serve as President and Student Conductor or four more choirs through high school and college before entering the Seminary.  Singing was at the very center of my life from Junior High through the end of the Seminary (8 years post high school).  Music has had a sustaining and nurturing presence in my life for all the years since.  It feeds my spirit in a way that allows me to continue doing what I am doing now. 

One of my most vivid memories is of the night when I was about fourteen years old that I decided to go in the ministry.  It was a very spiritual experience.   There was not magic nor were there voices from above, just some powerful mental conversation that seemed to reveal the Lord’s leading to the decision.  I am always suspect when someone says the Lord told them to do something.  It seems often to be an attempt to use the Lord to make people agree with something the person has decided is so.   The decision to go into the ministry was tested and reconsidered as other career options moved to center stage, one in Physics and the other in Choral Music. 

That memory confirms for me a decision-making process that, at least in terms of major decisions, has seemed to leave me completely secure in whatever I have chosen to do.  I have never regretted a major decision or second-guessed it.  Whether right or wrong I have given myself completely to whatever has followed each of those major choices.  I have not lost energy because I wondered if I was doing the right thing.  I may have lost energy for other reasons, but not because I doubted the choice I had made.  That has been the key to dealing with the challenges that come with full time Caregiving.  As those of you who read these posts know well, I have plenty of times of frustration with my role and my own limitations, but I do not question the decision to choose the role. 

The time in life that is the focus of today and tomorrow is the time during which Mary Ann and I met and, three and a half years later, married.  I had endured the typical rejection by the first couple of Junior High crushes.  I will say it certainly did not feel typical.  I met Mary Ann (having known her name since we grew up in the same church) the summer after my first year in college. 

Romantic love is, of course, very selfish.  I fell in love and found that a gaping hole in my insides was filled by that relationship.  I can only speak for my own feelings on the matter.  I do not actually know much about Mary Ann’s feelings at that time, or since then for that matter, since she holds her feelings close to the vest, as they say.   While we have had the usual ups and downs, the relationship has remained secure for these many years.  I feel no less in love with her than I did forty-four years ago.  Even the waste management duties have not changed that.  If anything, the feelings are deeper and more fully developed than when we began our life together.  The struggles of these last few years have drawn us closer.  All of that does not preclude our getting grumpy with each other, or our resenting each other when things are not going well for us.   It just puts the problem times into perspective as just a part of a strong and healthy relationship. 

The online retreat is providing lots of fodder for the task of finding meaning in the circumstances in which I am living as a Caregiver.  Finding  meaning in the Caregiving tranforms frustrating days into fulfilling days.